Beaver

Student hall occupancy at all time high, Covid-19 remains under control

This academic year has seen a marked rise in LSE’s student hall occupancy to 99%, in contrast to the relatively vacant state of student halls the previous year. The rise is mainly due to a significantly greater proportion of second-year students opting to stay in halls instead of private accommodation. 

Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, students entering their second year faced greater difficulties in their search for private accommodation during Summer Term and the summer vacation period. 

International students who undertook their first-year remotely had to not only coordinate virtually the house-hunting process such as viewings and lease negotiations, but also find flatmates to rent the properties with them.

Franciso Marques-Guedes, a second-year student staying at Sidney Webb House this year, said, “As an international student, I think Covid tremendously affected my ambitions to rent a house. First, dealing with all the restrictions and personal problems caused by [the pandemic] back at home made it difficult for me and my friend to meet up to search for flats together. Secondly, our intentions to travel to London in pursuit of an apartment were cut short as all the quarantining made it unfeasible.”

While travel restrictions and the house-hunting process spurred some to seek LSE accommodation, many other second-year students opted to stay in halls to make up for the ‘student hall experience’ they missed last year. 

A second-year student staying at Carr-Saunders this year said, “I chose staying in halls over private accommodation because I wanted a proper halls experience at university that I felt like I lost out on last year due to all the rules and restrictions.”

The rise in student hall occupancy in comparison to last year is strikingly reflected in the numbers. An LSE spokesperson said in an email statement, “In September 2020, LSE accommodation was 80% occupied. By Christmas 2020, occupancy was about 70% and by summer it was 45%, as the School released many students from their accommodation contracts. This year, LSE accommodation is 99% occupied.” 

For the Residences Management Team, this rise in hall occupancy has been a blessing. The increased rental contracts guarantee that the financial losses incurred from last year will be mitigated. Moreover, the high occupancy suggests university life for many students is nearing normality. On the other hand, the increased student populations at halls has also posed several challenges for the management team in controlling the spread of Covid. 

James Greenwood, Head of Residential Life, said, “Although managing the virus at halls has been challenging this year, we’ve done well so far. We’re managing about 3500 students in halls at the moment but as of [this interview], there are only seven reported cases of [Covid]. When I speak to other universities, it’s evident we’re doing much better.”

James credits all the residential and catering staff and the support of the university for the successful management of increased hall occupancy so far, and stated that the Residential Management Team was determined to support students in halls to the highest degree. He said, “There was an instance where residential staff at one of our halls personally visited a Boots store to purchase certain items for an isolating student that would have otherwise not been delivered in time.”

Overall, James remains optimistic about high occupancy at the halls. He said, “We still have certain restrictions at the halls, but it’s less than last year. This is great for the students as they are able to get a university experience that is closer to normal-ish lines.”

Note: This article was published in The Beaver’s Issue #913 in October 2021.

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